Running with the rat catchers

On July 1 the University of Sydney’s Desert Ecology Research Group and Bush Heritage Australia held a community information evening in Bedourie to explain what it is they have been doing out the in the Simpson Desert for 20 years. 

Community and council members, as well as managers and owners of the stations bordering Bush Heritage’s Cravens Peak and Ethabuka properties, were in attendance. 

ABC rural reported, Amy Phillips, from Longreach, was at the event.

Click here to listen to the ‘Country Hour’ radio piece from 2 July.

TRANSCRIPT

The Simpson Desert is home to 15 small mammals, more than 150 bird species, six types of frogs and more than 54 reptile species, making in one of the most prosperous reptile communities of any arid zone in the world.

But it’s not all plain sailing with introduced predators; foxes and cats really make their mark on the environment.

In the far western Queensland town of Bedourie scientists have taken a break from their work which looks into the predators’ impacts.

The group from the University of Sydney includes volunteers who along with the scientists have been coming out for around 21 years.

Professor Chris Dickman says there are 15 people braving the cool desert air and are part of a team they like to call the rat catchers.

He says there are some awesome little critters way out west.

“Well I think some of the favourites for me personally are the Mulgara, a small carnivorous marsupial with real attitude.”

“It’s smaller relative, a thing called a hairy-footed Dunart – it’s really kind of a Hobbit-looking marsupial with huge hairy hind feet.”

Professor Dickman talks about a predator crunch where the native mammal populations are coming down and the foxes and cats are increasing.

“From our work over the last 20 years we’ve seen three species disappear from the sand dunes, not to say they’re extinct, they do occur elsewhere in Australia.”

He sounds a warning that the hopping mouse might be next to be pushed out of this habitat.

“All it takes is a very long period of very low numbers and they’re gone.”

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Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), Interviews, People and the environment, Relevant articles

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